It’s hard to say out loud: soccer mommy. What’s with us millennials being obsessed with middle-age adulthood all of a sudden? Soccer Mommy, Hockey Dad, dad bods, sugar daddies: all things I thought we were specifically supposed to not aspire to be. It’s an aesthetic that makes me quake into a black hole. Regardless, it’s a fashion trend that the underground indie rock world has embraced with open arms, and Sophie Allison, who records as Soccer Mommy, is at the wheel of its turquoise minivan.
I must admit, I was originally quite intrigued by the cover of Soccer Mommy’s 2017 Collection, which displayed a Casio keyboard lying next to a red-dress-clad Allison, an image that could not encapsulate the phrase “bedroom pop” any more effectively, and something every indie rock fan can identify with. But diving deeper into Allison’s Bandcamp back catalog only revealed more clichés of this style: titles like songs for the recently sad, grainy polaroid pictures as album covers, and references to Molly Ringwald. It all seems a bit too manufactured for house-show attending millennials to be genuine.
Soccer Mommy’s studio debut for Fat Possum transmits all of these painful identities into a tight lyrical ode to the knotty, exhausting trappings of teenage romance. For 35 minutes across ten expertly crafted tracks, Allison ruminates on love, friendship, drugs, and the way they interlace throughout adolescence. The album is nothing if not approachable; lazily-strummed open guitar chords introduce the first song “Still Clean,” with a near-whispering Allison, comparing a lover to a hungry animal. It’s a cutting sentiment with a heart-nudging melody, and probably the best track on the entire album.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for Allison to drag the bar she set for metaphors down several pegs, with the next song “Cool” simultaneously vilifying and admiring another girl: “She’ll break your heart and steal your joy, like a criminal / I wanna know like you, I wanna be that cool.” This sentiment gets nauseating by the end, but nonetheless it gets reused on at least two more songs. The story is not one that should be ignored, but for me it’s already been perfected and thrown out by now; Best Coast tackled teenage romantic insecurity for the entirety of their fantastic debut album, but Soccer Mommy isn’t able to make it fascinating for longer than one song.
She doesn’t deserve to be torn apart, though; for a debut album, it could be much worse. The production from Gabe Wax is nothing short of excellent, cleaning up Allison’s lo-fi roots and making every element of the mix pop with no bells or whistles. There are genuinely heartwarming moments: the aforementioned opener “Still Clean,” as well as the ballad “Blossom (Wasting All My Time)” glisten with sincerity and passion. Any track from Clean would fit perfectly placed alongside Anna Burch or Alvvays in a mixtape, and wouldn’t have me scrambling to the fast-forward button. But deeper listening wouldn’t reveal anything that isn’t laid out plain as day on the record’s surface, which is most likely exactly what Soccer Mommy intended.